I challenged my friends to “send me a one word or first line prompt and I will write a story about it.” My cousin, Chris, sent me “skullduggery” and “crapulence.” So here you go, Chris. It’s a little over the top (okay, a lot over the top...) and was fun to write.
Shadow in the Night
by Joy Bernardo
Chris sat down at the bar. It was a hot and muggy Wednesday night, brought forth by the four o clock rain shower and the accompanying 85 degree heat. He had come to Florida for this. It was the land of hot, half naked women after all. Mostly because of the incessant fever and humidity, but that was beside the point. Tonight, he was looking for a little debauchery and to let loose after a long day at work.
Beads of sweat formed on his shiny, bald head. He grabbed a handkerchief from his front pocket and dabbed his forehead. To any other man, a suit would have made him feel overdressed at this particularly shabby bar. But Chris was no other man. He knew what he wanted and he knew that they liked well dressed men.
Though small and unknown, it was a well kept bar on the boardwalk of a lonely beach. The owner kept it clean and classy with a country flair. The lacquered wooden bar and matching booths constantly felt sticky because of the constant swipes with the wet cloth.
Chris looked around, it was fairly empty tonight except for a couple groups of girls and a few desperate men trying to cling on to the hope of getting a phone number or perhaps getting their hands on a pair of lacy underpants. He sat down at the bar and waved to the bartender, who he knew well.
"Rough night?" the bartender asked.
"You have no idea," Chris said. "Can I get a gin and tonic?"
"Anything you want, mi compadre," the bartender said, pouring him a glass. He set it down in front of him at the bar. "Three o'clock," he whispered before wandering off.
Chris picked up the glass and brought the drink to his hungry lips. He savored the pine flavor that wrapped itself around his tongue and grabbed hold of his throat. As he set the glass down his eyes wandered up. A woman was sitting alone at a table to his right. Her brown locks curled softly down her neck and draped over her bare shoulders like a veil. She nursed some fruity drink in a tall glass that was as voluptuously curvy as she was. The red dress that she wore clung to every arc and bend on her body.
"What's her story?" Chris asked the bartender, but when he looked up, the bartender was long gone; he was attending to a gaggle of girls in a bachelorette party. The phallic shaped crown on the bride's forehead, kind of, gave them away. Chris smiled and turned his attention back to the brunette at the table. She was now joined by a rather large man wearing a brown leather jacket and a silver cross around his neck but by the way that he was acting, he didn't seem like a very religious man.
"Come on," the large man muttered as he grabbed her by the elbow. Dragging her out of her seat, they made their way to the door, albeit begrudgingly. Chris rolled his eyes and gulped down the rest of his drink before getting up.
"Where are you off to?" the bartender asked. Chris looked up at him and smiled.
Handing him some cash he nonchalantly replied, "Just a bit of skullduggery tonight." And with that he was off.
“A good man’s work is never done,” the bartender said after him. “When you get back, I’ll make you another drink. On the house.”
"Who was that?" the bride asked.
"Shadow of the night," the bartender replied. "Just going to take care of some of our garbage."
Chris followed the adorable couple down the street. The large man drug his girl along the sidewalk by her arm. The hem of her dress wavered in the cool midnight breeze which wafted off of the Atlantic. The pair slowed from a jaunt to a dawdling pace as the man turned around. Chris quickly jumped into an alley and hugged the wall. His eyes trailed the two as they continued on down the street and turned a corner.
Chris hopped to. He brushed off his suit jacket, which got dusty from the brick wall and casually strolled along the boardwalk.
As he rounded the corner, he saw the brutish ogre wrap his claws around the lady's dainty neck. She looked past the man and straight into Chris’ eyes. She pleaded with him.
"Now that's not a way to treat a lady," Chris said as he stepped out from the shadows.
The man turned around and saw an elegantly dressed young man trying to stand his ground. He scoffed and turned his attention back to his task at hand. "Stay out of this, Short Stuff," he muttered.
"I'll appreciate you leaving your short jokes at home with the rest of your dignity and chivalry." Chris raised an eyebrow at the Neanderthal. “Or do you even know what those big words mean?”
"What?" The large man's grip on her neck loosened. The woman took advantage of this opportunity and took off, fleeing to safety behind Chris. Her arms wrapped around his chest.
"You don't have to do this," she whispered. “Come on, let’s just go.”
But he wasn’t done yet. "The only good thing that you had was this lovely young lady,” Chris continued. “And it seems that you can't seem to find the right way to hold onto that, now can you?" Chris smiled.
The woman leaned her head in and whispered in his ear. "What are you doing?" she pleaded. "We need to get out of here..."
"I don't run away," Chris replied.
"That's a pity," the man thundered. "Cause I really think that you should listen to the lady."
Chris gave the woman's hand a soft squeeze before releasing himself from her grasp. "Don't worry," he whispered in her ear.
The man loomed in front of him like a brick wall. "I'm going to give you one more chance to get outta..." He didn't have time to finish his sentence before Chris punched him in the stomach, knocking the breath out of him.
"Your tendency for crapulence isn't doing you any favors," Chris said, punching him again. "It just makes you a bigger punching bag."
The man reached up to grab Chris by the arm but Chris slipped out of his reach. The man staggered forward, reaching for him again but Chris dodged his grasp and swung once more, catching the man in the jaw. He fell to the ground in a heap.
"That's not how you treat a lady," Chris said. "If you haven't learned that lesson yet, let me reiterate." Chris bent down, looking at the man eye to eye. He grabbed the man's throat. "They like it best with a gentle touch and a soft stroke of your fingers." The man let out a garbled cough. "You understand?" The man nodded his head.
Chris stood up and dusted himself off.
"Who are you?" the woman asked.
Chris kissed her hand and smiled. "A gentleman."